Chinese President Xi Jinping has arrived in Moscow for a state visit, his first trip abroad since his re-election earlier this month. The visit is seen as a show of China’s new diplomatic prowess and a political boost for Russian President Vladimir Putin, who is facing an international arrest warrant on war crimes charges related to Ukraine. The two leaders greeted each other as “dear friend” and held informal talks for nearly four and a half hours on Monday, with further official talks scheduled for Tuesday. Putin praised China’s proposals for a resolution of the Ukraine war and expressed his admiration for China’s “very effective system for developing the economy and strengthening the state”. Xi, in turn, praised Putin and predicted that Russians would re-elect him next year. The two leaders have described Xi’s three-day trip as an opportunity to deepen their “no-limits friendship”.
The main agenda of the meeting was setting up “infrastructure for an economic relationship”, according to Sergey Markov, director of the Institute of Political Studies in Moscow. He said that Russia and China needed to build a new trade relationship without the influence of sanctions imposed by the US and the EU. Markov also suggested that both Xi and Putin did not see Ukrainian President Volodomyr Zelenskyy as a leader of Ukraine, but rather as a puppet of America.
The US has criticised Xi’s visit, saying that the timing showed Beijing was providing Moscow with “diplomatic cover” to commit further crimes. White House national security spokesman John Kirby said that China’s 12-point proposal to solve the Ukraine crisis was largely dismissed in the West as a ploy to buy Putin time to regroup his forces and solidify his grip on occupied land. Kirby called on Xi to use his influence to press Putin to withdraw troops from Ukraine, expressing concern that Beijing might instead call for a ceasefire that would let Russian troops stay. Kirby also urged Xi to speak with Zelenskyy about the impact of the war on Ukraine. He suggested that Xi and Putin were connected in “a bit of a marriage of convenience” rather than one of affection, as both countries have long chafed at US leadership around the world.
The visit is seen as a message to Western leaders that their efforts to isolate Moscow over its war in Ukraine have fallen short. It also highlights China’s growing influence on the world stage and its willingness to engage with Russia despite international criticism. The two powers have described their relationship as a “no-limits friendship” and are expected to deepen their economic ties during the visit.